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VOL. 132 | NO. 58 | Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: No More Lottery Balls, The Voucher Bill Advances and UCLA

By Bill Dries

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Spring is in the air, which can only mean one thing – the Overton Park Greensward controversy is back on. Just this past weekend, I was in the park noting the metal barrier that separates Greensward pedestrians from Zoo parkers and that the barrier was not “decorated” with save the greensward paraphernalia as much as it has been the previous three springs.

So I continued on my way, never knowing that the controversy would come to life Tuesday on the fifth floor of City Hall – far from Zambezi River Hippo Camp and the gates of the Old Forest and the Doughboy – Can we all just agree on the Doughboy? CAN WE?

So here is what happened Tuesday with much more to come when we meet here Wednesday into Thursday.

The city council had a pretty eventful Tuesday on several fronts including the impasse ordinance. The general changes council member Kemp Conrad has been pursuing won final approval with some changes as a the result of talks between Mayor Jim Strickland and union leaders that continued into Tuesday afternoon in the hallway outside the committee room.

The impasse procedure has never been among the favorite parts of the job for council members. Think about it – you get final offers from each side that is deadlocked in contract talks. You are forbidden by the separation of powers in the city charter from trying to get them to meet in the middle. Your job if you are a council member on an impasse committee is to listen to each side on their final positions and pick one. Then it goes to the full council to accept it or reject it. Again, no middle ground by politicians for whom politics is the art of compromise not to mention a continued existence as a politician.

Over nearly 40 years, there were several sets of changes to the rules for this that, in my humble opinion, were efforts by one side or the other to game the system. Among those changes was a method of selecting council members for impasse duty that council members came to loathe – putting a batch of numbered balls in a metal cage, spinning the cage and drawing numbers that corresponded to particular council members. The random drawing frequently resulted in duty on multiple impasse committees for the same council members. Council Chairman Berlin Boyd watched one year as his number came up for six separate impasse committees.

Also from council day, the council members who had their first discussion Tuesday of the idea of abolishing the Beale Street Tourism Development Authority didn’t have any big problems with the idea. A lot can happen in the three weeks until the next council meeting and the administration still has to weigh in. And there might be some sentiment that the city should not be running an entertainment district in such a direct fashion. But on the other hand, the Downtown Memphis Commission is three years into what was supposed to be an interim assignment as day to day manager of the district.

The date is set for the annual Dunavant Awards we cosponsor with the East Memphis Rotary Club – April 18. And the keynote speaker at the awards named in honor of the late Probate Court Clerk Bobby Dunavant is U.S. Senator Bob Corker.

In the Tennessee Legislature:

State Senator Brian Kelsey’s school voucher bill advanced again Tuesday and the committee discussion displayed a split in the Shelby County delegation on the matter, according to our correspondent Sam Stockard.

Medical marijuana is dead in the capitol this year.

And add conservative state Senator Mae Beavers to the list of possible contenders for the Republican nomination for governor in 2018.

Meanwhile, Randy Boyd, who is already in the running, has assembled his campaign finance team.

More on the end of the formal complaint to the state Board of Professional Responsibility against District Attorney General Amy Weirich.

FedEx earnings short of forecasts and jet fuel was a factor in that although the Memphis institution is taking steps to blunt the impact in future quarters.

Music+Arts Studio in Cooper-Young making a splash this month with the release of the debut album of “Southern Avenue” recorded in the studio. But the studio is also becoming a home for indy film in Memphis.

UCLA is on its way to town, not just for the NCAA South semifinals at week’s end at FedExForum. The football Bruins are on the Tigers football schedule in 2017 – the biggest name on the schedule for the Tigers. The Tigers sports heritage is forever linked to UCLA in basketball because of the historic NCAA finals of the early 1970s that pitted Gene Bartow’s Tigers, led by Larry Finch, against John Wooden’s Bruins, led by Bill Walton. The Bruins September date at the Liberty Bowl offers some opportunities for recruiting as well says Coach Mike Norvell.

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